Football Association Governance

Part of Occupied Palestinian Territories: Israeli Settlements – in the House of Commons at 4:44 pm on 9th February 2017.

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Photo of Rosena Allin-Khan Rosena Allin-Khan Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) (Sport) 4:44 pm, 9th February 2017

That is a good question. I have met Greg Clarke and representatives from the FA on several occasions, and I do believe that Mr Clarke deeply understands the importance of diversity, at every level. I truly do believe he feels that. Putting in quotas would perhaps add some value, but we need to ensure that women and people from ethnic minority groups also feel empowered to apply for jobs, not only on the field but in the boardroom. It is also important that we have role models.

Like all governing bodies, the FA has duties, one of which is governing the game with integrity. It cannot fulfil its duty unless it has strong governance, and currently it is not performing well enough. That needs to change. There is no cushioning around this point: the FA must do more. In 2011, Lord Burns said that the FA Council, at 118 members, was too large; today, the council has 122 members. As we have already heard, the council is made up of only eight women and four representatives from black and minority ethnic groups.

Not only is diversity not in the heart of the FA; it is not in its body or, indeed, even in its soul. My hon. Friend Clive Efford spoke of the importance of nurturing more home-grown talent. The FA has accepted those and other current failings, but it must now move on from the criticisms and make a clear path forwards on to a road of good governance. If it does not, it will only have a detrimental effect on the game.

Despite all that, we must not sideline the hard work and determination of many within the FA. My hon. Friend John Mann made an excellent point about the work that has been undertaken to combat racism, and we must acknowledge as positives the aim to double female participation by 2030 and the Lionesses placing third in rankings of our country’s favourite teams. Some £22 million a year is invested into the grassroots game, and with more flexibility being seen in the form of five-a-side and walking football, a larger proportion of the population has the opportunity to get involved. Those are not small steps; they are ambitious, and that should not be taken away from the FA.

Nevertheless, just as the Football Association has a duty, so do we in this Chamber. We have a duty to follow due process. A process has been laid before all national governing bodies, and it must be adhered to. If not, we will be moving the goalposts—as it were—and it will be us who ensure a detrimental effect on the game of football. I do not wish to do that.

All national governing bodies have been given until April this year to lay their plans before the Government and show their reforms. That is a timetable and a process that we must stick to. We cannot single out individual governing bodies. Parliament must live up to its duty. We cannot shift the goalpost for some, and leave them cemented in for others. Having said that, we must make the Football Association aware that this is its last opportunity. In an evidence session of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in December, the Minister stated that she believed that financial penalties—that of removing £30 million of funding to the FA as well as withholding support for a World cup bid—would be severe enough for the FA to take notice and make reforms. However, respectfully, I disagree. Further in the evidence session, the Minister stated that funding would still be given to the game of football, but through different means. This, therefore, does not have a significant effect on the game.

Damian Collins quoted life vice-president, Barry Taylor, who said that the governing body is rich enough to stand alone and that it should resist change that would see a more independent board and an end to the current council’s structure. That makes it blatantly clear that funding cuts are not, and never will be, a driving factor for reform.

A World cup bid would also not be likely until 2030, which, therefore, provides no time-sensitive pressure on the FA to reform. After today’s comments by the life vice-president, I ask the Minister whether she still stands by those comments.

Many in this House today have brought forward the concept of legislation, but that must be used as a last resort. It must be made known to the FA that legislation will, without doubt, be drawn up if, in April, plans presented to the Government are not of a sufficient nature and reform cannot be seen. Does the Minister agree that if, in April, the Football Association’s plans are not sufficient, the only next step to take is legislation?

Will the Minister commit today that if, in April, the FA is unable to show significant progress towards levelling out the playing field when it comes to diversity on both the board and the council and subsequently not meeting the mandatory aspect of the governance code for “greater parity and greater diversity”, she will take action against the FA?

What I have wanted to highlight today is that we cannot, and should not, jump the gun. It is for that reason that, at this time, I cannot stand by a motion of no confidence. However, I will stand extremely firm in April. My message today is this: reform is necessary, and progress must be seen. If that is not the case, then the time for self-reform is up. We owe that to all those who participate now and those who will participate in the future.